Author: Kirstine

Home / Author: Kirstine

I’m back in Copenhagen, I’m back in my hood on Vesterbro down town Copenhagen. Today I went back to my ‘office’ – a local restaurant BOBs where it is possible to work all day if you are a member of Sp8ces. Through sp8ces (no I don’t get paid to tell about it) you have access to several working lounges in Denmark and Norway – they make agreements with hotels, restaurants, etc. to use timeslots where their spaces are not occupied. It is a great concept – and cheap.

I’ve spent the last couple of days sleeping, doing absolutely nothing besides catching up on Netflix. It will take time before I have processed all my experiences from my journey. I have travelled many kilometres, met so many people – not only humanists, but also other locals and tourists, seen the most amazing landscapes and met fantastic animals. Earth is an amazing and beautiful place.

I know I’m privileged – I have the possibility to visit places where the usual tourist never goes. I’m glad this journey is a combination of following the usual tourist path and meeting people living their lives in these countries. It adds so much more when you talk to people living there and not just other tourists or people from travel agencies.

My journey has showed me the diversity of the different countries. There is so much prejudice in the western world toward the African continent – yes, it is a continent and not a country. Africa is unfortunately often perceived as a country and treated as such in popular culture and media. Africa is three times larger than Europe and occupies 20% of the land mass on Earth – it is huge.

In eastern and southern Africa where I have been travelling, they have many challenges. I travelled during the rainy season but in most of the countries, if not all, they got lesser rain than they need to avoid drought. Climate changes are already impacting this part of the world. The growing population is also impacting the infrastructure – water supply, electricity and transport.

I’ve been travelling for 10 weeks, visited 8 countries and held 30 interviews with non-believers. During the next 3-4 months all the interviews will be published as podcast episodes through Babelfish and I will continue to write articles for POV International.

At the same time, I will plan the next steps of my journey. Which means I will be pretty busy while in Copenhagen – I also want to see, to hug and talk to my friends and family. Right now it is cold and rainy – I hope spring is coming.

Goodbye Namibia – goodbye Africa

2019-03-03 | Namibia | No Comments

Etosha National Park

Today I am leaving Namibia. The only country where I haven’t interviewed any humanists. So far, I know the country doesn’t have any humanist or atheist organisations – or at least no organisations are members of Humanists International.

I decided to visit anyway – purely for recreational reasons. So, I have been on holiday the last week, experiencing Namibia. A fascinating country almost twenty times the size of Denmark, but the population is half the size of Denmark. It is the least dense country in Africa with only 3 people per square kilometre – In the whole world only Mongolia is less dense (2 people per square kilometre).

Namibia has is all, in great amount. Savanna, desert, ocean, mountains etc. And everything is big – the national parks goes on forever, you drive for hours through each park in search for animals. For the first time ever, I have been part of a tourist group with people I didn’t know beforehand. I’m used to be the only one or travelling with Sofie.

It’s been interesting travelling with other tourists, even though it means you don’t get as close to the guide or the locals. You meet people from all over the world who are interested in the same things as you – to see some animals up close and spend time in a 40-degree desert after hours and hours of driving. Canadians, Americans, Namibians, British, South African and French – the latter has spent the last 8 years sailing around the world in their own boat (impressive).

Cheetah in Solitaire

The wild life is amazing – I saw my first leopard (2 actually) and my first cheetahs. Black rhinos, elephants, zebras, Oryx’s and many other animals. It is much drier here than in the other countries I have visited – Namibia is dry, but also feels the consequences of the climate changes.

There has never been much water in this dry land – maybe one of the reasons for the small population – but it is getting worse. They change salt water to drinking water to cover the need. And everybody is asked to save water wherever we go. On the positive side the water is clean enough for me to drink – I don’t need to bye water all the time.

The most overwhelming experience was the Namibian Desert – especially the orange sand dunes. This is the oldest desert in the world. The sun is relentless, the wildlife is well hidden – but there are some. We managed to come across the mountain zebra, many oryx’s, jackals and other animals.

Dune no 45

Some from the group climbed the Crazy Dune – aka Big Daddy – it is 325 meters tall. You must get up at 5 o’clock in the morning or else it will get to hot to climb. I didn’t get up there but walked to Deadveil to look at a dried-out flood pan with trees which have been dead for 800 years – a fascinating place.

We had a nice view of all the ‘crazy’ people climbing the dune while the sand got hotter and hotter. Soon we could all feel the hot sand burning through the bottom of our shoes – and it was only 11 o’clock. The temperatures were reaching 40 degrees at noon.

Etosha pan

This country was definitely worth a visit. It was a so-called protectorate of South Africa until 1990 – or the real story is that South Africa didn’t follow the agreements made in the UN, so they took power over Namibia and treated it as a protectorate and even implemented apartheid rules. It took 35 years before Namibia finally got its independence.

When I leave Namibia – I also leave Africa heading home to Denmark. It has been an amazing trip, and an experience of a lifetime – I have been away for 10 weeks, 2½ months. This was a test run. I wanted to find out whether I can travel a long time on my own. I can. I do not have any problems travelling alone – I met a lot of people on the way. I talk to locals, I talk to tourists – and I meet humanists, atheists and non-believers.

They are the heroes of Africa today. They are fighting for human rights and humanism. They are fighting for their life stance in a part of the world where they are the odd one out. Their stories deserve to be told – and to be heard.

When I arrive in Denmark, I will start planning my next steps. I want to visit several countries in Africa north of Equator. I would also like to cover some countries in the Middle East. I hope to be on the road again in April, but I will continue blogging about my experiences from Africa.

Some facts:

Namibia (Denmark)

Population:   2.6 mio. (5.8 mio.)

Area:   825.000 km2 (43.000 km2)

Density: 3/km2 (133/km2)

Life expectancy: 64 years (80 years)

POV International & I

2019-02-28 | Babelfish, Denmark, Uganda | No Comments

The new humanist celebrants in Eastern Africa – 
Picture from Kato Mukasa

I am happy to be able to break this news today. Going forward I will be a writer for the Danish online media POV International. This is amazing. They have so many fantastic journalists and writers who publish on their platform. The writers don’t get paid, but the readers can donate directly to the writers.

POV International will bring my travel stories. The articles are in Danish. The title of the series is (roughly translated to English): In search for the worlds non-believers.

The first article has been published today. I tell about my visit to Uganda. The next article will be about my visit to Rwanda.

I hope this is an opportunity to gain a wider audience in Denmark. And maybe in the long run to an international audience.

Table Mountain seen from Robben Island

Arriving in Cape Town almost feels like coming home. It’s extremely European and according to locals very different from the rest of the country – which means I haven’t really gotten the full experience of this country. I’ve spent two weeks here in Cape Town and haven’t seen half of the sights. After travelling for two months I needed to spend some time relaxing and processing all my experiences.

All of us of course know one the greatest humanists Nelson Mandela. You can’t visit Cape Town without visiting Robben Island where Mandela spent so many years as a political prisoner. I clearly remember the apartheid regime from when I was young, and it was a fantastic day when he was released.

Our guide at Robben Island

Robben Island is a desolate place, flat with not much vegetation. The guides on the island is former political prisoners. Our guide spent 10 years here and he told about torture, famine and the humiliating treatment by the apartheid regime. Since the regime ended improvements have been made but there is still a long way to go.

The difference between rich and poor are still huge, even more than I have seen in other countries. The different governments have only managed to lift a fraction of the poor out of poverty. And like under apartheid it is primarily black people who are poor, lack education and are unemployed. Unemployment rate is approximately 25%.

At first sight Cape Town looks like a wealthy city, but then you begin to see all the beggars. There are so many beggars, none of them are kids though like in some of the other countries. I’m not sure why.

The humanists I met are concentrated around Cape Town. They told me this country is just as religious as the other African countries, but it is easier to be a non-believer in South Africa. Or it depends on which parts of the country you are in. In some areas, rural areas, you would never say out loud you don’t believe. While in others it would not be an issue, like in urban areas.

The cultural diversity is extreme. One example I got from one of the humanists illustrates this very well. South Africa has a secular progressive constitution and homosexuals has equals rights, same sex marriages has been legal for many years. But while kids can be raised by homosexual parents without facing any challenges in their daily lives, just 20 kilometres away lesbians get mass raped as punishment.

On top of this there is infrastructure challenges. Everywhere you go there is posters asking to save water. The power plants cannot deliver enough electricity during peaks times, which means they will cut the power in designated areas for a couple of hours at a time – this is called load shedding.

Despite all the challenges I like this city – just the daily view of the mountains, Table Mountains, with the clouds makes me feel good. When you are used to only the flat land in Denmark mountains are mesmerising. Even though I am afraid of heights, well to put it another way I am afraid of heights when I’m around cliffs and trees. I bungy jump and want to skydive but I will not climb a mountain.

Happy Feet 🙂

And being used to have the ocean nearby I’ve been happy to be close to the water again. I have enjoyed the waves which are like at Vesterhavet back home, the cliffs which looks like Bornholm only a thousand times bigger. I’ve had my first encounter with wild penguins and seals.

It’s the first time I’ve been this long in one place. On one hand it has been nice to be able to empty the suitcase and hang my clothes in the closet. It’s been nice getting to know my maid Jeanette and the people in the reception & the restaurant. But on the other hand, I know I’ve missed out on so much. I could have explored the country even more if I had spent maybe a week travelling up the coast.

Seals on the Waterfront

I would like to come back one day – they have it all – the mountains, the savanna, the desert, the ocean. I want to go whale watching & swimming with seals one day, and searching for a leopard the next, diving with sharks on the third day.

Tomorrow I’ll be flying to Namibia and then there is only one week left before I’m back in Denmark, planning the next steps.

Some facts:

South Africa (Denmark)

Population:   58 mio. (5.8 mio.)

Area:   1.221.000 km2 (43.000 km2)

Density: 48/km2 (133/km2)

Life expectancy: 63 years (80 years)

I – a tourist

2019-02-19 | South Africa | 1 Comment

The Cape Wheel and Table Mountain 
in the background

The last few days I’ve focused on being a tourist in Cape Town – no interviews, no writing, no editing. I’ve been exhausted and extremely tired. I’ve had writers block – not being able to write anything that made sense. So, I needed this break, relaxing, watching Netflix and not thinking about the next steps.

This is the most touristy place I have come across on my journey. Off course the safari places in all the other countries are for tourists as well, but it doesn’t feel like it in the same way. It’s not the same kind of tourism. When you chose a safari, you are interested in the animals and proper accommodation. When choosing to be a tourist you are interested in historic sites, entertainment, shopping, beaches and animals in a mix.

My journey has so far been a mix of going on safari and meeting humanists. It has been a good mix – I wouldn’t have managed travelling and only doing one thing. I like the change in focus. But I have forgotten to give myself a break occasionally. When I was on Zanzibar the purpose was to relax for a few days, instead I worked, I edited the podcast and wrote some texts.

I have met so many people, seen so many countries, met so many different cultures, basically my brain has been overloaded with impressions. So, whenever I was thinking about writing a blog post or edit a new episode, I felt tired and wanted to lay down and sleep. I finally listened and decided to go with it and do absolutely nothing and if it required laying in bed watching Netflix all day it would be ok.

Whenever I needed to leave the hotel, I’ve followed the beaten path of any tourist in cape Town. Jumping on the sightseeing bus to get to know the city better. So, I have seen the sights from the top of a bus or walked the city thin.

As a tourist here you don’t have to interact with the population at all if you use the sightseeing buses, hotel shuttles and only visits the tourist attractions. You can keep to yourself and only interact with others if you choose by yourself. So, I choose to keep to myself trying to process all the things I have experienced the last two months.

I have visited 7 countries, interviewed 27 people, published 11 episodes of Babelfish and wrote several blogposts. Which is quite an accomplishment thinking about it. Off course I deserve to take a few days off doing absolutely nothing, watching Netflix and getting room service.

Now I am relaxed and ready to continue – in a few hours I’ll visit Robben Island where Nelson Mandela spend so much time in prison. In a couple of days, I’ll visit Cape Point and, in the weekend, I’ll meet a lot of humanists. No worries – I’m back on track 😊

Goodbye Botswana

2019-02-13 | Botswana | 1 Comment

The Okavanga Delta

It is difficult to comprehend the amount of open spaces in Botswana – the country is the size of France, but France has almost 30 times as many citizens. So much space everywhere.

The Khalihari Desert covers a large part of the country. Together with the Okavanga Delta and Chobe National Park it attracts a lot of tourists – but it is by far the most expensive country I have visited. The parks are covered with air strips where tourists are flown in to stay in luxury lodges. Some cost several thousands of dollars for one night (one night!). A bit out of my league.

Endangered wild dog

The wild life is amazing. Even with my budget I managed to se a lot of animals – even some I haven’t met before, like the pack of wild dogs and the python I met in Moremei Game Reserve. Botswana has thousands of elephants which causes a lot of tension with the local farmers.

Elephants will take down trees, fences and crops on their way. The number of elephants is so high it is a problem. If there is not enough food for them in the parks, they will migrate and ruin farmland. Even though I love elephants I see the problem – some places in the Moremei Game Reserve looked like a graveyard for trees due to the elephants taking most of the trees down or eating the bark of them.

An elephant passed by

Climate changes also has an impact in Botswana. The country is very dry, but I visited during the rainy season and it hardly rained. Newman, my guide in the Okavanga Delta told me the water level should be 2 meters higher at this time of year.

Like in the other countries I have visited the population is growing despite the fact Botswana has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the world (estimated 25% of the adult population). More youngsters get an education. But unfortunately, there isn’t enough jobs and unemployment is high even though Botswana is a success story in Africa with high economic growth rates.

Religion plays a vital role in Botswana. Most of the population is christian, but the traditional beliefs still exist including witchcraft. Being a non-believer can be challenging since they are considered to be devil worshippers and without ethics and moral.

There is no humanist organisation in Botswana – not yet. There is a small group of friends, non-believers, who wants to create a humanist organisation.

I met a couple of them while visiting and at this point, they are focusing on being formally registered. Next steps are to make humanist more visible, basically showing the public humanists are good people through charity work.

Like other humanists in this part of the world their biggest challenge is the lack of funding. I hope they succeed.

Some facts:

Botswana (Denmark)

Population:   2.3 mio. (5.8 mio.)

Area:   582.000 km2 (43.000 km2)

Density: 4/km2 (133/km2)

Life expectancy: 63 years (80 years)

My – now dead – favourite fan

Today I lost one of my most valued travel gadgets. It doesn’t look like much, it’s not expensive but besides my passport and my credit cards it is my most valued gadget – it is a fan bought for 2$ in a Chinese shop in Copenhagen. It has followed me for a long time. It is useful in the plane, the bus, in restaurants, everywhere it might be to hot for you. Unfortunately, it died today. It will be missed, and I need to buy a new one.

It made me think of what things I cannot live without while travelling. I wanted to make a top 10 – or rather it ended up being a top 12 plus extras, since I couldn’t limit it to only 10 things. These are the thing I always pack together with some clothes.

Passport & yellow fewer card: pretty essential if you want to leave your country experiencing the world.

Credit cards: instead of carrying loads of money for your whole trip. Make sure to have different types of credit cards. Some places don’t accept visa card, and some places doesn’t accept master card. It is also a good idea to have a backup card, just in case. I actually travel with 4 credit cards, maybe a bit over the top, but it doesn’t cost me any extra.

top 12 plus extra

Travel insurance: just in case. I have never had the need for it, but I felt pretty good knowing I could get picked up by a helicopter in the middle of the Cambodian jungle and flown to the nearest hospital when I was travelling with my then 12-year old daughter.

I also feel pretty good knowing I can get help if I have an accident while diving with sharks or bungy jumping (still need to visit the 216 meter drop in at Bloukrans Bridge South Africa – take it easy mom – it will not be during this journey 😉).

Money: it’s always good to carry a few dollars. Just in case you experience what I did in Rwanda, and your credit cards getting rejected by the ATM’s, then you have some back up money. Else I will always rely on my mom to transfer money through Western Union.

Sunglasses: no explanation needed

Malaria pills: no need to gamble. The pills are so cheap these days its affordable for almost everybody. If you get malaria and you are not treated in time you either die or will have the disease for the rest of your life. Just get them and remember to take them.

Dehydration relief effervescent tablets: if I travel in countries with high temperatures, I lose my appetite and forget to drink water. If you get dehydrated, you’ll get extremely ill. I always bring the tablets together with my miniature travel pharmacy. I’ve used them several times on this journey just to be sure I was hydrated.

tsetse flies

Mosquito repellent: another essential. You don’t want to have your whole body covered in mosquito bites. Unfortunately, the repellent didn’t help against the tsetse fly in Tarangire National Park in Tanzania. I was bitten from my knees down on both legs – so I had to dig into my travel phamarcy to find the stop-the-itching-cream (which only helped a couple of hours at a time).

sun tan after 1½ month

Sun screen: I must admit – I hate sunscreen. The greasy white stuff you must put on in a thick layer, using half a bottle every time, and it closes your pores which makes you sweat even more. For many years I have only used alcohol-based sun screen, which you only apply once a day. Down here I sometimes have applied twice a day though, the sun is relentless here.

sun burn

I brought factor 50 and 20 and after 1½ month I still got a nice tan and no burns. Expect the one time I just wanted to get a bit tanned on my legs (they never tan, never, never) and sat outside on the ferry from Zanzibar to Dar es Salaam for two hours – bad idea.

Lonely Planet books: Even though you can google everything wherever you travel I like my travel books. And I prefer Lonely Planet – I always buy them. I document my journeys, where I have been when, which route we have been taking, which sites we have seen, where we have stayed. And I keep them in my bookshelf at home. I like to look at them – it’s my travel diary.

Fan: the fan I have already told about – it is essential for me and I will miss it very much.

Church – Dar es Salaam

What I have realised during my journey is how much religion and, in most countries, also tribes influence everything. Which religion you belong to, which tribe you are a part of influences you everyday life, what school you go to, which job you get, who you can do business with, who you marry, who you vote for.

If you belong to the majority religion and/or tribe you will be better off in many countries. This means it is not the best qualified who gets the job og gets elected, it might not even be the best qualified within your tribe – it all depends on connections and where you belong.

It is also well known that corruption is widespread. Some are trying to fight it, but it is difficult to get rid of and changes are slow.

On top of this people are ready to give all their money to the churches instead of paying for their children’s education, they are ready to pray instead or in addition of relying on doctors to cure diseases. Many people are poor, but they are still willing to give their last dime to their priest.

Kigali, Rwanda

I’ve seen many beautiful buildings while travelling but it is churches, schools and public buildings not peoples houses. Many houses are old, worn down and especially rural areas huts. Think about the amount of money the churches receive from people who could be spending them on improving their own lives.

Especially Pentecostal churches (in Danish ‘Pinsebevægelsen’) is growing in numbers, receiving enormous amounts of money from their followers. So, the priests get rich. Some of them have private jets, big mansions, expensive cars – some of them are con artists and people still donate money to them. People are convinced that god will take care of them if they keep praying and believe enough.

Supported by christian missionaries some priests preach people should get many children – even though they cannot support them or pay their education (education is not free in most countries). The churches are also against contraception and family planning – supported by donator countries like the US, who has a policy of not supporting organisations where abortion is included as a possibility when they are advising families.

This means HIV infected and the population is growing in number in countries where contraception’s are not promoted. The infrastructure, educational system and the labour market cannot keep up with the growth of the population – many young people gets a college degree but there are no jobs for them.  Unemployment rates are high amongst the youth, so many would of cause want to travel abroad to find a proper job. And climate changes are not doing anything good either. It seems like being so religious work against solving a lot of the problems here. The African countries have not been christian for a long time – only a few hundred years. I’m wondering if that’s the reason they are so conservative and extremely religious. And maybe their belief will loosen in the coming generations, I don’t know. The question is whether or not it will be in time for them to be able to solve the challenges they face, and where their belief stands in the way of the best solutions.

Goodbye Malawi

2019-02-03 | Malawi | 1 Comment

Liwonde National Park

This beautiful small country landlocked between Mozambique, Zambia and Tanzania. It somehow seems to be forgotten by many – no major conflicts to keep the media interested. Not a major tourist destination either even though I would recommend a visit – people are friendly, the service is good, and the animals are plenty.

It is one of the poorest countries in the world. Most of the country is rural with farmland. They are heavily depending on financial support and projects from foreign donors. The last 10 years the country have experienced famine several times either due to floods in some years or droughts in other years. Driving through the country there where areas overflooded with so much water that they can’t even grow rice there.

The humanists are few in Malawi. They have a small organisation but not many funds, which off course means they are struggling, since they are not able to initiate the projects they want. They would like to establish humanist schools like the ones in Uganda. Not many non-believers have come out in Malawi. Humanists will not face challenges coming out in public, but many are afraid of coming out to family and friends. They are afraid of being shunned.

Like all the other countries I have visited Malawi is very religious, and non-believers are considered to be devil-worshippers, bad people without any moral and ethics. On top if this many still believes in witchcraft (like in other countries) – a belief which is fully integrated with the Christian faith, which makes it even more difficult to debunk. The humanist organisation here ran a project some years back to fight the belief in witchcraft, this included training the police force.

I met a guy working with resettlement of UN refugees in Malawi – you know the kind of refugees Danmark no longer will receive (‘kvoteflytninge’ in Danish). He told about the cruelty towards albino babies and kids – they are being killed and parts of their bodies sold. This happens because people think the body parts are magical. It is difficult to comprehend that people believe this so much they are willing to kill babies and kids, chopping them up in pieces and selling them on a market. Unbearable.

And yes, we talked about my embarrassment of Denmark’s change in policy. My country who has always held a torch for the most vulnerable refugees – like the albino babies and kids. My newfound friend tried to comfort me, telling about all the Danes still working for the UN and the refugees – I’m still embarrassed.

Malawi has not been kind to me if we look at my digital challenges. First the poor internet connection at the first hotel, and then the subscription plugin on my webpage failed. And Friday evening my laptop crashed – or so I thought. Luckily the laptop worked perfectly when I arrived at my last hotel. The cosiest feeling-like-at-home hotel with the fastest internet. Happy days. And even more happy days for the first time I have experienced hotels with English channels on the tv. These little things can make me happy on this long journey.

And then there was the animals – all the beautiful animals I have seen. I was especially amazed to see all the hippos in Liwonde National Park. They have estimated 2000 (!) hippos in the park. You can sleep in the park while listening to them ‘talking’ to each other. Definitely worth a visit.

Some facts:

Malawi (Denmark)

Population:   19 mio. (5.8 mio.)

Area:   118.000 km2 (43.000 km2)

Density: 166/km2 (133/km2)

Life expectancy: 64 years (80 years)

Succes – finally

2019-02-01 | Babelfish, Uganda | No Comments

After struggling with slow performing internet connections I now have access. I am in a the MVUU camp in the middle of the Liwonde Nationalpark in Malavi and the internet connection is the fastest I have experienced in this country.

So today I have published another episode of my podcast. In this episode I talk to Max from HALEA Uganda. He tells how he tried out different religions before realising he don’t believe in a god. And we learn how ‘the Secret’ influenced him, how he has been shunned and lost friends, but also how he gives medical support through Rotary.

Find it in your favourite podcast app or on this website. Enjoy.